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Friday, July 19, 2024

Pactiv says it will close Canton paper mill in June, idling 1,100

Pactiv Evergreen plans to close its paper mill in Canton in Haywood County in June as part of a restructuring. About 1,100 employees work at the plant, which has been a leading economic force in western North Carolina for more than a century.

In a press release, the Lake Forest, Illinois-based company said it “assesses all changes to the business with considerable thought for our employees, customers, shareholders and communities, and do not take these decisions lightly.” It will  provide outplacement assistance and severance to impacted employees.

The move comes amid labor discord at the mill, which has often experienced testy relations between its unionized workforce and various owners over the years. Pactiv Evergreen’s labor agreement with United Steelworkers’ Smokey Mountain Local 507 expired last May. Union President Troy Dills told WLOS in Asheville that he asked the company to finalize a contract after union workers twice rejected the company’s proposal.

The company canceled a negotiation meeting in January, Dills told the TV station. He also noted that the company is not planning to tear down the plant, which dominates downtown Canton, which is about 20 miles west of Asheville.

A glut of paper product for envelopes, writing paper and textbooks, prompted Pactiv Evergreen to shut down a major machine at the mill last month, local media reported, citing a union publication. The move sparked some speculation that the mill’s future was endangered.

Pactiv Evergreen makes coated food-grade paperboard that is used in many products including coffee cups and milk cartons. The company, which is controlled by New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart, went public in 2020 and reported a 14% increase in revenue last year to $6.2 billion. It had operating income of $319 million, compared with $33 million a year earlier. Market value is about $2 billion, based on yesterday’s closing price of $11.48.

The mill was owned for decades by the Champion paper company. For many years, it was the source of environmental battles involving North Carolina and Tennessee, which contended that pollution from the mill damaged the adjacent Pigeon River.

 

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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